Paralegals are more affordable than lawyers
In most cases paralegals charge less then lawyers for the same work. In some cases senior paralegals – who been doing this work for more than twenty years, have rates competitive with a junior lawyer who is still learning.
Paralegals are qualified and licensed
In 2008 licensing of paralegals began. Paralegals were licensed by what was then called the Law Society of Upper Canada. It is now called the Law Society of Ontario. This is the same organization that has regulated lawyers since 1797.
In 2008 those of us paralegals who were practicing for at least 3 years, and who met all the licensing requirements including being of good character were grandfathered in. We had to write a licensing exam based on legal ethics, professionalism, and practice management.
In the years since over 30 Ontario college campuses have been accredited by the Law Society of Ontario to be able to teach the approved paralegal course. Passing an accredited college course is now a pre-requisite to writing the paralegal licensing exam. Students must also complete a mandatory unpaid internship.
In 2015, the paralegal licensing exam become more rigorous. It is now a seven hour exam. The exam now covers virtually every course and every area of permitted paralegal scope of practice, plus it still tests students on legal ethics, professionalism, and practice management.
Most paralegals specialize in representing in only certain courts or tribunals
The law is complex and ever changing. There is too much law for any one person to know everything. Most paralegals only represent people in a few courts or tribunals. Those of us with years of experience become experts in the court or tribunals we appear in.
Many paralegals belong to a professional association whose work is vital to the profession
Many paralegals belong to the Ontario Paralegal Association. I belong to the Ontario Paralegal Association. This paralegal association is focused on advancing the profession, lobbying the government and the Law Society, and providing continuing legal education course to its paralegal members. Before hiring a paralegal to represent you, I suggest you ask whether they are a member of any professional associations.
Paralegals carry errors and omissions insurance to protect you
If the paralegal you hire is negligent, and as a result you lose money, you can sue the paralegal knowing they are required to carry insurance to protect you – the client. Every practicing paralegal is required to carry insurance with a million coverage per claim, two million dollars total.
If you represent yourself and you make an error, you must bear the cost of that error.
Paralegals pay into a compensation fund
The Law Society of Ontario administers a compensation fund to protect the public against a potential dishonest paralegal; one who steals the money you have provided them in advance for fees or money received in their trust account as a settlement. To my knowledge, in the over ten years since paralegals have been regulated; I am unaware of a single claim made to the paralegal compensation fund.
Paralegals are required to abide by rules and by-laws intended to protect the public
The Law Society of Ontario will investigate every complaint made against a paralegal– at no charge to you. There are a range of possible outcomes. In the most serious cases where a paralegal has been found to have violated the rules they could be fined, suspended from practicing, or have their license to practice as a paralegal revoked. Contact the Law Society of Ontario for more information.
If you are in Toronto or the GTA and you need to hire a paralegal for Small Claims Court representation or Landlord and Tenant Board representation, contact Marshall Yarmus of Civil Litigations at 416-229-1479 or visit www.civilparalegal.com